The two best fighters in mixed-martial arts (MMA) square off Saturday night. Neither one goes by the name “Conor McGregor.”
Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier defends his belt against Jon Jones in Anaheim. Whose MMA resume beats either of these guys?
Cormier owns wins over former UFC heavyweight champions Frank Mir and Josh Barnett, two of the best middleweights ever in Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, and beasts Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson at light heavyweight. His lone loss came to Jones.
Jon Jones has dominated a who’s-who of the light heavyweight division: Shogun Rua, Lyoto Machida, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort—not to mention other notable fighters who never wore UFC gold.
If either Cormier or Jones decided to move up to heavyweight, bookmakers would immediately favor the light heavyweight against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. That’s a sixty-pound jump in the weight limit. These guys are that good.
Unfortunately, like boxing, which sees one of the best matchups in recent memory—Gennady Golovkin-Saul Alvarez—overshadowed by Mayweather-McGregor, MMA struggles to escape the shadow of that $99 carnival act. This is the best the UFC gets. Yet, the UFC fans likely get the August boxing mismatch rather than the Jones-Cormier II pay-per view. The UFC’s loss is their loss, too.
Both men bring a similar skillset to Anaheim in dramatically different packaging. The long and lean Jones uses wrestling and unorthodox striking to make grown men look like boys. The bowling ball-esque Cormier employs Olympic-level wrestling with a solid boxing game to beat up men who beat up most everyone else.
Jones once memed Cormier as Family Matters dad Carl Winslow. Cormier accuses Jones of “sandblasting prostitutes,” brings up Bones’s hit-and-run car accident at inopportune times, and frequently references his opponent’s positive test results for performance-enhancing and performance-inhibiting drugs.
“I had two great weekends,” Jones retorted to Cormier raising his positive test for cocaine. “Back-to-back weekends: cocaine one, your ass the next. It was great. That’s a month for the ages.”
UFC 214 not only pits the two best guys in the organization against one another, it also pits the two guys who hate each other the most. That’s usually a recipe for a good fight.